I am a feminist, sex-positive and LGBT affirmative Clinical Psychologist. Having that openly and publicly stated means that my clients feel very safe discussing some of the more taboo topics, especially ones that we are made to feel ashamed of.
One of these is the topic of the rape fantasy. Role-playing or acting out with a partner a rape fantasy is a BDSM practice. It involves someone taking a dominant role, and another the submissive role. Not all sexual fantasies involve BDSM. Other fantasies include role playing or dressing up, or sexual encounters with multiple people at the same time.
I am intrigued by the many ways in which people talk about the rape fantasy.
Those who have the fantasy feel obliged to speak of it softly, with obvious shame. These are mainly women. Then, there are those who are baffled by it and speak of it questioningly and with a lot of doubt. These are mainly cisgender heterosexual men.
The rape fantasy is not limited to cisgender and heterosexual identified people. Yet, in my practice, the LGBT population I work with do not discuss it.
Amongst my cisgender and heterosexual patients, there is a lot of confusion about the rape fantasy.
I will start with the men. Mainly, they cannot comprehend how the women they know – independent and confident – can have fantasies where they are overpowered or “violated”. The contradiction doesn’t seem to compute.
Women feel ashamed because they know on an intellectual level that rape is bad and should not be tolerated. They do not understand how they can find such a situation erotic. Many women feel uncomfortable talking about their fantasy with their partners, and understanding what they want.
There is a lot said in pop psychology about the rape fantasy. I am not satisfied with all that is said about it there. It is highly fetishised.
What I have come to understand about the rape fantasy is that it is perfectly normal. By normal, I do not refer to it being “the norm”. What it means is that it is completely acceptable to have it.
From unpacking my clients’ rape fantasies, I have come to understand that the desire is not to be violated. Instead, it is to be wanted so badly that their partners cannot “control their desire”. For some, also, it is a desire to feel safe enough that they can be submissive.
When discussing it from this perspective, I found that my cisgender heterosexual male clients also had similar fantasies. They do not articulate this in the language of rape. Instead, they use the language of intimacy.
Seen from this perspective, the rape fantasy is an opportunity to explore these questions in the relationship. It is about having open communication around questions of “how much do you want/love/desire me?” and also “how can we build more trust in this relationship?”
It is about exploring and experimenting. It is also about discussing and exploring boundaries, and discovering what one is comfortable and uncomfortable with.
It is completely acceptable that someone who identifies as a feminist has a rape fantasy. The fantasy does not delegitimise one’s politics. It can, instead, strengthen ones politics by practicing feminist principles in acting out the fantasy with a trusted person. Feminism is as much about exploring and accepting oneself as it is about ending patriarchy and the discrimination that comes with it.
As a feminist role-playing a rape fantasy, one gets to explore and truly understand what consent means. The body and all its complexity in what is erotic and sensuous gets to be explored.
Men, too, are able to explore their identities. They get to explore their masculinity in a way that allows them to work out what it means to them, and how they express it in and to the world.
The key to enjoying rape fantasy is safety. The first thing one must do is to discuss their fantasies with their partner(s). What would you like to be done? It is completely acceptable to want some kind of physical element, i.e. hair pulling, slapping, being called names. This is nothing to be worried about. Talk it out with your partner(s), be clear about what you are ok with and what you do not want, and establish a safe word that would indicate when the acting out of the fantasy would stop. When choosing a safe word, it is best to not use “No” or “Stop”.
When discussing role-playing, allow space to talk about what you may be afraid of. What kinds of assurances would you need to know that you are safe? It is best to act out fantasy only if and when you and your partner(s) feel comfortable and safe. None of you should feel forced or coerced into anything.
It is also completely acceptable to stop and re-start the role-playing as many times as you want. It is crucial to remember that it is role-play, and either partner has the power to stop the role-play at any time. Take your time and progress slowly with the fantasy. Start with “small” things.
Even in play acting, consent is crucial. The rape fantasy is all about ongoing consent.
It is possible for the play acting to sometimes get out of hand. It can become rape if safe words are not used, or are ignored. Think about options available to you should this happen.
Care also must be taken after the fantasy has been acted out. It is important to have a conversation about what happened. Discuss what you liked and what you didn’t. Talk about how you felt. Were you scared? If yes, did the feeling go away? If not, how did you manage it? What would you do differently the next time? Some people also find it necessary to discuss, when they are planning the play acting, what they want immediately after. Would you want to be hugged or cuddled? Would you prefer time alone? The more you discuss these issues, the better your play acting experience will be.
There is no bad sexual fantasy. It is only important that if a fantasy is acted out, it happens safely.
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